Customer Success people tend to confuse the words “happiness” and “success”. I always say, I'm not in charge of the happiness of my customers! They can wake up and be happy, or sad, or frustrated, I don't care - I want them to be successful!

What happens when a Customer Success Gal marries a Sales guy? As Gal Gan-El, Head of Customer Success and Support at Testim, tells us: you find balance!

The Sales and Customer Success relationship is something that is very delicate, something that we need to find the right balance.

It's funny, because my husband and I used to work for the same company. He was in charge of all the Sales in Latin America and I was in charge of the Delivery. We used to sit in the same room and I was like, “What the #@$%, you sold them something that we don't have?!”, and he used to turn around and say “I don’t care, I sold it, you need to deliver!”

With a career spanning Customer Success, Professional Services and Project Management, Gal has seen it all -- and shares generously:

1. Don’t conflate Customer Success with Customer Happiness, don't confuse actually helping with being nice:

“Customer Success people tend to confuse the words “happiness” and “success”. I always say, I'm not in charge of the happiness of my customers! They can wake up and be happy, or sad, or frustrated, I don't care - I want them to be successful! And it's really, really hard to argue with the numbers - so as long as we show the numbers, they can be happy or sad, but again - I want them to be successful. So, when people ask me, “Are the customers happy?”, I say “I don't know if they're happy or not, I mean, I wish I could make people happy, but you know, I can’t control that!””

... you don't need to be nice to your customers. I mean, don't “please” them!

“No, really, many Customer Success folks are trying too hard to be lovable. But, customers are not stupid! I see Customer Success joining on calls, like “Heeeeey, how are you?” and talking for 15 minutes out of the 30 minutes about the weather, or other things that are not important, and at the end of the day they're not solving any problems for the customer. So don't try to be lovable! Try to be reliable, try to really be trustable, try to be the advocate for the customer, fight hard internally to get your customers what they need.”

2. Understanding business -- and personal! -- goals of folks throughout the customer organization is extremely important:

“So we need to understand the organization, and we need to understand that every customer - and I mean every customer: the manager, the practitioner, the middle manager, the decision maker, the economic buyer - they have their goals, their targets, their personal goals and we need to understand that as customer success managers. It’s not necessarily true that the practitioners are aware of the goals of the decision maker, so when they're coming to work, they need to do X, Y, Z, and they go home. The managers have a bigger vision: they want to lead the organization to a specific place.

And Customer Success needs to understand all these aspects: what all of these stakeholders’ goals and needs are, in order to create a kind of success plan, something that translates these goals and targets into technical steps to achieve these goals, and that is really, really important.”

3. Your toughest customers may be your best teachers:

“One of the things that I've learned during my career is that the most difficult customers, they destroy you, but they teach you a lot. I used to have customers that would curse on calls, like “Your product sucks! You are a bunch of morons! You don't know what you're doing!” I had this type of customer, and you feel so bad. 

I had a customer that every time I used to deliver a document to them, if a comma was missing he used to send it back. He was from Germany and he used to torture me, I mean it was a nightmare! One day, the two of us were in a room and I was terrified, but I thought I have to ask him. So, I looked at him and said: “I need to ask you: is it only with me, or this is the way that you behave in general?” and he said “I'm German, this is how we work. We are very strict, we are very process-oriented, we want things to be very organized, and I’m sorry - you are not!” It has been 10 years since I left that position, and he left his position, and we are very good friends: we exchange emails all the time, if he interviews for a job that I might be a good fit for, he sends me these opportunities. We share all the personal things that are going on in our lives: we are very good friends! This person changed me: the way that I work, and pay attention to detail, make sure that I’m listening to customers’ wants and needs.

So really, customers can destroy you, but they can build you and you should listen to them, and you should learn from them. Don't come from this very arrogant position: just listen, it’s really important.”

Heartfelt thanks to Gal for sharing stories!

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